Plane crash near Haines kills pilot

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

A Skagway man was killed when his Skagway Air Cherokee Six airplane crashed this morning south of Haines, Alaska State Troopers said.

Efforts to recover the body of Joel Mathis, 39, pilot and sole passenger from the Piper PA-32, have been suspended due to rough terrain, poor weather and lack of visibility, said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. Wilkinson said recovery efforts will resume Wednesday.

Coast Guard spokesman Roger Wetherell said the crash site, on land near Taiya Point about 12 miles southwest of Haines, was located about 11 a.m. by a TEMSCO helicopter from Juneau. Weather in the area was foggy and overcast with snow and visibility of three miles.

A Coast Guard helicopter arrived later but could not lower a rescuer to the site because of the mountainous terrain, Wetherell said.

The Coast Guard flew members of the Skagway Mountain Search and Rescue Team to the scene around 1:30 p.m. today to allow them "to traverse the terrain there and try to access the wreckage," Wetherell said. The Coast Guard helicopter crew said the plane suffered extensive damage, he said.

Once the team arrived members confirmed the pilot was dead but poor weather conditions kept the team from recovering the body. Once team members are able to get into the area, troopers said the body will be flown to Juneau for formal identification.

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